OIC elects former Saudi Information Minister as new secretary general

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Iyad Madani, the former Saudi minister of Culture and Information, has been elected as the new secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Conference on Thursday.

Three potential contenders for the post withdrew in favor of Madani, who will now replace Turkey’s Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, whose term expires in 2014.

Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, who heads the OIC office, made the announcement Thursday during his closing statement on the final day of the summit.

Islamic states said on Thursday they support efforts to help Mali “regain its territorial integrity,” in an apparent reference to France's military intervention in the African country.

In the final statement of the 12th Islamic summit, delegates stressed “firm support for current efforts by Mali to regain its territorial integrity and its authority over all national territory.” The text does not explicitly mention French military operations in Mali.

OIC members such as Egypt and Qatar had criticized the intervention, which came after Bamako called for help in dealing with armed groups linked to Al-Qaeda that had taken over its northern half.

Participants at the summit, who represent the world's 1.5 billion Muslims, “strongly condemn the acts committed by terrorist groups and movements and other networks of organized crime and drug trafficking.”

They also slammed the “despicable actions committed against civilians... and the destruction of cultural sites, such as those classified by UNESCO as world heritage” sites, the Islamic leaders said.

The 22-month-old Syrian conflict topped the OIC’s 57 members’ discussions during the two-day conference.

A draft resolution on Syria, seen by AFP, calls for “serious dialogue” between the Syrian opposition and government officials “not directly involved in oppression.”

Foreign ministers of Egypt, Iran and Turkey met to discuss Syria on the sidelines of the summit, a day after Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi held talks with his Iranian and Turkish counterparts, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Abdullah Gul.

“The process is still ongoing,” Mohammad Akhoundzadeh, deputy Iranian foreign minister, told reporters.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Mursi urged Ahmadinejad, whose country is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's main regional backer, to switch allegiance and support the opposition.

The leader of the Syrian opposition’s main umbrella group, Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, has expressed willingness to negotiate with Syria’s Vice President Faruq al-Sharaa, who has kept a low profile in the conflict.

Mursi, in an address to the summit on Wednesday, urged Syria’s fractious opposition to unite, while warning Assad’s regime to “draw lessons from history” and listen to its people’s demands.

He also warned against inter-Muslim “sectarian strife” that could, “God prevent, achieve what the enemies of the (Muslim) nation have failed to achieve.”

The Syrian conflict, in which majority Sunni-led rebels are trying to oust the minority Alawite-dominated regime of Assad, has further hardened longstanding sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shiites.

Shiite Iran is the main backer of Assad, whose Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shiite Islam. Sunni states such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood-led Egypt strongly back the rebels.

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